Council hits the gas on lowering speed limits

Renton councilmembers suggested a city-wide 20 mph limit

Renton City Council wants to reduce the residential street speed limit throughout the city to 20 mph.

Originally, city staff brought council a proposal to change just one neighborhood’s speed, the La Crosse Neighborhood. But at the Monday, May 20 transportation committee meeting, councilmembers Don Persson, Ruth Pérez and Randy Corman all expressed interest in just changing the speed limits to 20 for the whole city.

“This is a significant change,” Corman told council at the council meeting that night.

Persson said that he propose defaulting to 20 mph, since it took two years just to get La Crosse neighborhood changes ready.He also pointed out police would always have discretion on whether to give warnings or tickets to those violating the new speed.

Public Works Administrator Gregg Zimmerman told council they would be able to rewrite the current law through council ordinance. All streets currently listed at speed limits other than 25 mph would remain the same.

According to data in Seattle’s Vision Zero Plan, nine out of 10 pedestrians survive when hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph. In comparison, five out of 10 pedestrians survive when hit by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph.

City staff presented preliminary information in February 2018 about the 20 mph speed limits, citing Portland, Seattle and New York City as early participants. New York ended up returning to 25 mph. Boston is now also considering reducing speed to 20 mph.

The state of Washington enacted legislation in 2013 to allow cities and towns to establish a maximum speed of 20 mph on non-arterial roads. Renton staff told council it would also make it easier for them to change the city speed limit rather than go by neighborhood requests.

The process changing to 20 mph will take time and money, Transportation Planning and Programming Manager Vangie Garcia told councilmembers at the meeting. It will cost $50 to replace each 25 mph sign to 20 mph, as well as staff time of two employees to do that task.

Council approved the transportation committee report asking that city staff prepare an ordinance and bring it back to council.

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